After setting up house here in south central Austin, we started exploring both mutual and personal interests — education and fine art (Sarah); music and retail (Joshua). We actually know a little about the entrepreneurial itch — after relocating to San Francisco from Oklahoma in 2001, we helped open the Subterranean Shoe Room. Both a bricks-and-mortar and online store, the Shoe Room quickly blew up, thanks to its reputation for cutting-edge kicks. But it was the store’s success with the locals that was particularly sweet. Amazingly, it became a hangout for a large, loyal group of friends and customers — a real blast for us.
After moving to Texas, we knew we wanted to start … something. So we began to plan. Step one, list all the non-negotiable elements for the business we hoped to create: spontaneity, surprise, social intercourse, much art (to meet and support artists, writers and musicians) and daily dealings with the denizens of Austin. Step two, close our eyes, hold our breath and take a giant leap!
Ergo, Progress Coffee — a place for food, beverage, art, music and magazines where you can eat, drink, look, listen, read — and hang out for as long as you want.
We settled on the central east side for several reasons: proximity to downtown, predictions of growth, support from an enthusiastic landlord, and even a nostalgia factor — the area reminds us of our old Mission neighborhood in San Francisco. Then, with donations of time and sweat-equity from selfless friends, we converted part of a 1942 warehouse into a paragon of Progress. Conceptually, we wanted the café to have a sophisticated, contemporary look and a comfortable, inviting feel.